May 25th: Our Lady of the Sign (1)
Our Lady of the Sign is one of the most revered icons of the Russian Orthodox Church and its story is quite fascinating!
Dated from the fisrt half of the 12th century, it is sometimes thought that it’s name, “Virgin of the Sign » or « Our Lady of the Sign », refers to the prophecy of Isaiah:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
And shall call His name Immanuel
However, the origin of the name in Russia is traced to a specific historical event: the miraculous protection of Novgorod from invasion in the year of 1170. On November 27, 1170 in the midst of the assault on the city of Novgorod by the forces of the united army of 4 Russian kingdoms, the citizens of Novgorod turned to God. Incessantly, they prayed for protection. On the third night, the bishop of Novgorod led a procession around the city walls, holding the icon of the Theotokos. While the icon was being carried, the enemy fired arrows aimed at the city walls. One of the arrows pierced the icon and the Most Holy Mother of God turned her face towards the city as tears trickled from her eyes. The tears dropped on the bishop, who exclaimed: “O wonder of wonders! How can tears be streaming from dry wood! O Queen! You are giving us a sign that you are entreating your Son that the city be spared.” After this sign, the people of Novgorod fought fearlessly and won the battle.